Self-Monitoring of Listening Abilities in Normal-Hearing Children, Normal-Hearing Adults, and Children with Cochlear Implants

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Abstract

Background:

Self-monitoring has been shown to be an essential skill for various aspects of our lives, including our health, education, and interpersonal relationships. Likewise, the ability to monitor one's speech reception in noisy environments may be a fundamental skill for communication, particularly for those who are often confronted with challenging listening environments, such as students and children with hearing loss.

Purpose:

The purpose of this project was to determine if normal-hearing children, normal-hearing adults, and children with cochlear implants can monitor their listening ability in noise and recognize when they are not able to perceive spoken messages.

Research Design:

Participants were administered an Objective-Subjective listening task in which their subjective judgments of their ability to understand sentences from the Coordinate Response Measure corpus presented in speech spectrum noise were compared to their objective performance on the same task.

Study Sample:

Participants included 41 normal-hearing children, 35 normal-hearing adults, and 10 children with cochlear implants.

Data Collection and Analysis:

On the Objective-Subjective listening task, the level of the masker noise remained constant at 63 dB SPL, while the level of the target sentences varied over a 12 dB range in a block of trials. Psychometric functions, relating proportion correct (Objective condition) and proportion perceived as intelligible (Subjective condition) to target/masker ratio (T/M), were estimated for each participant. Thresholds were defined as the T/M required to produce 51% correct (Objective condition) and 51% perceived as intelligible (Subjective condition). Discrepancy scores between listeners' threshold estimates in the Objective and Subjective conditions served as an index of self-monitoring ability. In addition, the normal-hearing children were administered tests of cognitive skills and academic achievement, and results from these measures were compared to findings on the Objective-Subjective listening task.

Results:

Nearly half of the children with normal hearing significantly overestimated their listening in noise ability on the Objective-Subjective listening task, compared to less than 9% of the adults. There was a significant correlation between age and results on the Objective-Subjective task, indicating that the younger children in the sample (age 7-12 yr) tended to overestimate their listening ability more than the adolescents and adults. Among the children with cochlear implants, eight of the 10 participants significantly overestimated their listening ability (as compared to 13 of the 24 normal-hearing children in the same age range). We did not find a significant relationship between results on the Objective-Subjective listening task and performance on the given measures of academic achievement or intelligence.

Conclusions:

Findings from this study suggest that many children with normal hearing and children with cochlear implants often fail to recognize when they encounter conditions in which their listening ability is compromised. These results may have practical implications for classroom learning, particularly for children with hearing loss in mainstream settings.

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